Alan Turing

Posted by Zuhdi Farhan On Thursday, June 23, 2016 0 comments

Cryptography was used extensively during World War II. Each nation involved came up with their own code and cipher systems. This led to codebreakers or cryptanalysts being recruited by governments to help them win the war.

Germany was famous for its Enigma. Enigma machine was first developed by Arthur Scherbius, a German engineer. It was originally developed for secure communication of commercial companies.  By the year 1933, German army, navy, and air force each had their own version of the machine.

Polish Cipher Bureau was the first to be able to reconstruct an Enigma machine and breakthe cipher in 1932. Britain’s Government Code & Cipher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire became the centre for the effort of breaking the Enigma in 1939 after the Poles shared the secrets with the Allied. British used the broken codes sparingly to avoid the Germans from realizing their breakthrough. Due to this, the war in Europe was said to be shorten from two to four years.

One key figure in this remarkable event was Alan Mathison Turing. At 13, he was sent to a boarding school in Dorset, Sherborne School. Later, he won scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge and took Mathematics degree with distinction. In 1936, he published a paper now recognized as the foundation of computer science.

Turing joined the British code-breaking department after spending 2 years at Princeton, developing ideas on secret ciphers. He was joined by other mathematicians at Bletchley Park after September 1939. Turing developed the Bombe, a machine functioned to decipher the Germans’ Enigma code.

He was once briefly engaged to Joan Clarke, a colleague and fellow mathematician at Bletchley Park. He then confessed to her of his homosexual tendencies and shortly after, he ended their engagement. Alan Turing was persecuted by the British government after an affair with a young man surfaced. As of year 1967, homosexual activities were illegal in Britain.

 Alan Turing was chemically castrated and found dead in bed on 8th June 1954, owing to cyanide poisoning. He was granted posthumous royal pardon by the Queen in December 2013. In 2014, the story of Alan Turing was made into a movie, The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.

Enigma machine


Alan Turing


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